Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dinner at Tilth

It takes me a while to get around to trying fine dining places. When the weekend rolls around, often all I want is something comfortable, and with a really good IPA on tap. Something you don't typically find at fine dining. Well, after hearing so much about Tilth, we finally decided to get over there and give it a go. I had high expectations, but even so, this place still totally blew me out of the water. What a gem!

Let's begin - first, it's along the main strip in the uber-cute neighborhood of Wallingford, which I lived in when I went to college and have a total soft spot for. It's in a renovated house, and it's a little noisy, a little cozy, but once the food arrives, you won't care.

Our friendly and attentive (but not pushy) waiter recommended splitting 6 of the small courses between the two of us, which I found fantastic, because I love splitting small plates! I can't comment about the wine, because I don't order wine much when I go out, but the food was fantastic.

The recurring theme I found at Tilth is that all the food tasted like the ingredients, but clean, and elevated. Often, I'll try food and think "this is delicious, but it's because of cream or butter". The food at Tilth just tasted like the ingredients, as delicious and pure as they can be, without obvious hints of added fat. Everything was perfectly seasoned for my palette, too - nothing was overseasoned or underseasoned, it was all perfect, which was a first for me. Finally, everything was plated beautifully.

First course: Smoked yogurt flan with mustard greens and bacon. WOW. They make their own yogurt, then strain it til it's thick, then cold-smoke it, which sounds so strange yet amazingly delicious - thick, rich, creamy, a clean milky flavor, smokey, delicious. I loved it, the hubby said it was a little gritty, and it wasn't perfectly smooth, but the flavor was so spot-on, I didn't mind. The mustard greens were fantastic - perfectly cooked, a little bitter but not too bitter, and a little smokey and crispy from the wondrous crispy bacon bits. Fantastic.

Next: two fish courses. First was a seared tuna with chive spaetzle and carrot puree. The fish was cooked perfectly - seared on one side, raw on the other, lovely. But the carrot puree stole the show - it tasted like pure, delicious sweet carrots, it didn't taste like it had a lot of butter, oil, or cream added to make it good, but it tasted better than carrots have any right to be. It was the best thing on the plate. Along side was another dish - sous-vide halibut with sea beans - the halibut was so tender and moist, and the sea beans were new for me. I'd always wanted to try them, and they were milder in flavor than I expected, more like a typical bean (I was expecting something a little seaweed tasting), but sauteed til crisp-tender and a little browned in spots. Lovely!

Next was spring risotto with peas and lemon. I don't know what to say about this except it was perfect - so light and lemony, with amazingly fresh peas that were lightly cooked, and still crunchy in the middle. I tipped the bowl to get every last drop. I had no shame.

Our penultimate course was seared hangar steak with a quail egg and frissee. It was great, perfectly cooked steak, nicely cooked quail egg - sous vide, I believe. I wasn't as blown away as by the other dishes, but it was definitely tasty, perfectly plated and seasoned, and solid.

Our final course were the mini duck burgers. Unfortunately, I didn't really care for this dish. I love duck - LOVE it - but the patties were seared on the outside, rare on the inside (which is fine, duck should be medium rare), but the texture was too soft. The brioche buns, while they looked lovely, didn't do anything for me. The flavor was a little off, and too bland - overall, I didn't care for it, and I didn't finish my burgers. Which was a shame, because everything was 5 star up until this point.

Overall, this was the closest thing I've had to a perfect meal. It was truly lovely, and I can't wait to go back once the menu changes again, and try more of Hines' amazingly creations. Seattle is lucky to have this little gem. I would recommend in a heartbeat!

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